Multiple cracks have appeared on the walls of the recently inaugurated 150-bed regional referral hospital in Gelephu. The hospital was opened seven months ago.
While most of the cracks developed on the walls are thin, there is a noticeable crack developed from the expansion gap in one of the wards on the second floor of the hospital.
This, according to hospital officials is one of the major cracks identified on January 4. The fracture damaged the underlying tiles and runs to the other side of the building.
People visiting the hospital have raised concerns over the safety of the structure following the development of the fissures. “The hospital is not even a year old and already there are cracks,” one patient attendant said.
He said that unlike in other buildings, an issue such as this posed major threat. “There are sick people in the hospital who cannot carry their own bodies. If the walls start to fall off, there is no escaping for these patients,” he said. “Even the hospital staff are at risk. This has to be addressed immediately.”
Hospital officials said the issue has been reported to the departments concerned including the contractor. “We are told that the issue should not be a serious concern. The contractor has informed us that repair works would be carried out soon,” said an official.
An engineer with the health infrastructure and development division (HIDD) who is the project manager for the hospital construction, Jampel Dorji, said that the cracks would not affect the hospital structure.
He said that the major crack on the second floor was developed from the expansion gap that separates two blocks. “During the construction some of the expansion gaps were filled with brick walls from where these cracks have developed.”
Jampel Dorji said that expansion gaps are required to allow one block to move freely during times of seismic activities without affecting the adjoining block. “The cracks can be fixed and there are no major threats.”
One of the plumbers involved in the construction of the hospital, Amber Bishwa, said that the thin cracks on the walls could have developed due to lack of water that was sprinkled on the walls.
“There was shortage of water during construction which is why we couldn’t sprinkle adequate water onto the walls,” he said. “These cracks can be fixed easily and we will soon begin the works.”
There are about nine different locations where cracks have developed.
Meanwhile, after the hospital was shifted to the new location, service delivery has improved according to residents. A token system introduced for report collection, visiting the outpatient department (OPD) and meeting doctors has helped in managing the otherwise long queue in the old hospital.
The hospital has also started dispensing medicines during weekends and holidays by keeping one of their pharmacy counters open.
Today the hospital has at least 11 specialists including two gynecologists, general surgeons, medical specialists and ophthalmologists each and a pediatrician and an orthopaedist. There are five general duty medical officers (GDMO) and two general dental surgeons.
Medical superintendent Dr Tapas Gurung said the hospital would require a minimum of eight GDMOs given that the Gelephu regional hospital was the second busiest OPD after the national referral hospital in Thimphu.
He said the hospital has also requested the ministry for a permanent radiologist as it was now equipped with a CT scan facility.
The central regional referral hospital was constructed at a cost of Nu 835 million funded by the government of India.
Younten Tshedup | Gelephu